There are many reasons for people to choose races that involve a lot of travelling. On occasions, it can be down to qualifying for a set race, where the location is out of their control. Other times, it’s simply the opportunity to discover a new city at the same time, or the temptation of a particularly iconic route to tick off your bucket list.
The downside to flying to a destination for a race is that flying can be uncomfortable, cause stress and disrupt your sleep. These are all factors that may get in the way of your race performance if they aren’t managed. To help improve your flying and travelling experience, we have put together some tips below which will help ensure that you are rested and ready for race day.
Try to arrive with as much time as possible before your race
When booking your flight, allow at least a few days (where possible) to acclimatise to your surroundings. This will help you get used to any jetlag or get over any post-flight tiredness.
As well as this, we recommend staying a further few days after your race, especially if you are interested in exploring the area. That way, you won’t need to rush out and see everything on the days leading up to your race, and you will have some recovery time before getting back on the plane. Flying is uncomfortable enough without nursing post-race injuries or stiffness!
Consider the following when booking accommodation…
Is it close to the start line? If you’re booking a hotel that is further away from the start line, consider how you are planning on getting there in the morning. Ensure that it is as simple as possible – you won’t appreciate that additional stress on race day!
Do you have the facilities to prepare your own food? It may be worth looking into booking an apartment, with kitchen facilities, as opposed to a hotel room. That way, you can prepare your pre-race meals yourself, to ensure you’re fuelling your body the best way possible. For some recipe ideas, see our recipe book for triathletes.
Will the sleeping conditions be good? If you’re a light sleeper and are traveling in a group, consider paying that extra to have a room to yourself. If you’re traveling with a partner, maybe you would prefer a separate bed for comfort. Try and mimic the optimal conditions that you would need before a race.
Pro tip: bring ear plugs and an eye mask just in case.
Consider what seat you want on the plane
Would it be worth paying to upgrade to business or first class? This will give you a far more comfortable journey, which will benefit your race performance overall.
If you are flying on a budget, maybe consider paying for an extra-legroom seat or exit row seat. Or, requesting an aisle or window seat.
The benefits of having an aisle seat are that you can get up and walk around as much as you like, as well as having a little more room. However, if you like to sleep on planes, be aware that you may get woken up multiple times by whoever else is sitting in the aisle whenever they need to go to the toilet.
Stay hydrated before and during your flight…
Ensure you are drinking enough water, as flying can dehydrate you. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and consider bringing electrolyte tablets to add into your water. Adding electrolytes will keep you hydrated and your muscles happy, as well as helping to prevent DVT while flying.
Wear compression socks during the flight
Compression socks will help increase your blood circulation, and your legs will feel much better for it!
Another way to improve blood circulation: be sure to get up and walk around often throughout the flight. This will prevent your legs feeling stiff when you finally get up. If possible, try some basic calf stretches too to alleviate any stiffness.
Prepare in advance as much as possible.
Ensure that you’ve organised all your kit as much as possible, so there is no chance of forgetting something and frantically having to buy anything when you arrive. Pack your bag in the order of what you will need and arrange how you are getting from the airport to your accommodation in advance. The more prepared you are before you leave, the less likelihood of anything going wrong. Sounds simple, but it will prevent unneeded dramas while you’re getting in the zone. If you are worried about remembering everything, write a list of actions and kit that you need and tick it off as you go along.
Pro tip: We advise you to pack a yoga mat into your check-in luggage for when you arrive at the hotel. Once you arrive, we recommend 10-20 minutes of light stretching and yoga, to help any stiff muscles and make you feel refreshed
Bring your own snacks, and avoid airline snacks
You don’t want to try any new food so close to your race. So, prepare snacks such as nuts or flapjacks that are more appropriate pre-race food. High carb, low fibre foods are advised prior to race day.
It is also possible on some airlines to request specific dietary requirements for your flight meal when booking. Be sure to look into these options if there are certain foods that you avoid before a race.
Keep all your ‘on-the-day’ race gear in your cabin bag.
Prepare every bit of kit that you need for the race, and pack as much of this as possible in your cabin bag as opposed to your check-in luggage. That way, if your check-in bag gets lost in transit or ends up the other side of the world, you know that you have the important pieces of kit on you and it won’t be as much of a panic.
Set your clock to the destination time zone before you get on the plane.
If the time zone differs, then set your clocks to the destination time zone before you get on the plane. Then, try and adapt to it as early as possible. Try and sleep when it is night time in your destination and stay awake during daytime hours. However, if you struggle to sleep on flights then don’t keep yourself awake and end up un-rested.
In following these tips as above, we hope that your travel experience is as seamless as possible. We hope you feel refreshed and strong for your race. Good luck, and we hope you reach new limits abroad!